Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How to Communicate in Conflict



                                                                        (Ypsilanti, MI)


(Linda and I studied with David Augsburger in seminary. Here is one of the most important things God taught us through David.)

COMMUNICATION AS SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE (CARING + CONFRONTING; from David Augsburger, Caring Enough to Confront)

Ephesians 4:15 says: “therefore speak the truth in love; so shall we fully grow up into Christ.” Here we are told, in communication, to be both loving and truthful, caring and confronting.

Work at communicating both caring and confronting in the middle of marital or relational conflict.


Here are the attitudes to have and hold to.

SEE ALSO...

Pray the Lord's Prayer This Way



(Linda, with one of our great-nephews, Josiah.
Note: my father made the music stand as a gift to Linda's sister Lora  and her husband Grady,
on their wedding day.)

When I understood more about the kingdom of God I began to pray The Lord's 
Prayer in a different way. Now I pray like this, because I believe this is how the early Jesus-followers understood it.

God, let your kingdom come,

not only in the future,
but here,
presently,
in our experience.

God, reign over our hearts and minds,
NOW.

As we are conscious of our surroundings,
As we take our next breath,
As we walk into whatever this day has for us.
Let things be here,
in our homes,
in our church families,
in our community,
in our hearts and minds,  
on this earth,
as things are in heaven.

Let us see earth, through heaven,
and respond accordingly.

Truly!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My Book of the Year Is....

 


MY BOOK OF THE YEAR

The most important, most helpful book I read this year is The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution.

Wow! I just finished it. I took copious notes, and am going to slowly re-read it.

This book traces the transformation of human identity into a primarily psychological understanding of personal identity as a state of mind or a state of feelings. 


three of the RUNNERS-UP...

Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made everything About Race, Gender, and Identity - and Why This Harms Everybody. By Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsey.

This is a savaging, intelligent assault on Critical Theory. It's written by two atheist scholars. What initially caught my attention were these two atheist reviews.

"Many people are nonplussed by the surge of wokery, social justice warfare, intersectionality, and identity politics that has spilled out of academia and inundated other spheres of life. Where did it come from? What ideas are behind it? This book exposes the surprisingly shallow intellectual roots of the movements that appear to be engulfing our culture."

—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now


"Is there a school of thought so empty, so vacuous, so pretentious, so wantonly obscurantist, so stupefyingly boring that even a full-frontal attack on it cannot be read without an exasperated yawn? Yes. It is called postmodernism. If you sincerely want to understand what postmodernism is, read this exceptionally well-informed book by two noble heroes of the enlightenment project. If you have better uses for your neurons and your time, stick to science. It’s the real deal."

Richard Dawkins, emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford



The Decadent Society: How We Became Victims of Our Own Success. By Ross Douthat. 


This book... explains what happens when a rich and powerful society ceases advancing—how the combination of wealth and technological proficiency with economic stagnation, political stalemates, cultural exhaustion, and demographic decline creates a strange kind of “sustainable decadence,” a civilizational languor that could endure for longer than we think.


So much for "progessivism," right?


When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. By Chuck DeGroat.


The evangelical church in America has, for too long, nurtured and supported narcissism in our leaders.



BEGINNING TO READ...


For Christmas I received Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. I'm thirty pages into this book that is big, not just in terms of page length, but in wisdom, analysis, and understanding.






Blessed Are the Mono-Taskers, for They Shall See God


                                                                         (Redeemer sanctuary)

My Payne Theological Seminary class is called Spiritual Formation. My main assignment is: set apart one hour a day, five days a week, for seven weeks. Use this time to pray and listen to God. Keep a record of the voice and activity of God in a spiritual journal. 

Needed: listening skills, ability to meditate, and focus, to allow God to dive deep in your heart. 

I also teach three philosophy courses at Monroe County Community College: Introduction to Logic, Introduction to Western Philosophy, and Philosophy of Religion. The ability to stay on task is needed to learn philosophy, and to think philosophically. A philosopher must have a great capacity to go inward, to ponder, and ruminate. 

Spiritual formation and philosophy are slow cookers, not microwaves. Both, if attended to, produce lasting fruit in a person’s life. Oak trees grow from the soil of slow thinking about life’s big ideas. 

Deep, lasting, relationships are slow-cookers, too. This includes the God-relationship. Knowing God involves more than theoretical knowledge, just as one learns to ride a bike by actually riding it, not by reading books about bike riding. 

Kierkegaard told us that a pure heart, untainted by distractions, wills one thing. To “will one thing” is to focus on, attend to, be captivated by, be still before, one thing. What is the benefit of that? Nothing less, said Jesus, than the visio dei

Blessed are the mono-taskers, for they shall see God.


(From my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.)

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Prayer as Re-membering

Image result for john piippo prayer
(I took this photo of a woman praying in Jerusalem)


Remembering is a spiritual discipline. When we give thanks, it's an act of prayer often associated with something God has done for us. 

Prayer-remembering is about the past. When that past is positive, it is accompanied with thanksgiving. We remember how God re-membered us, how God put us back together when we were falling apart.

To re-member something, literally, would be to "member again" that which has become dismembered. Parts that were once together because they were meant to be together, got separated, but now are rejoined.

When I pray I am often re-minded (I am mindful again) of something that has "left my mind." God brings something to mind, and I am re-membered. 

This is good. It is clarifying and focusing when this happens. In prayer, in the God-appointment, God puts pieces of life back together again. God's Spirit achieves, in the act of praying, a great unifying.

I don't think you have to try or strive to re-member. Rather, as you consistently meet with God, conversing together in the slow-cooked prayer exchange, a re-membering will take place, by the Spirit. This has been, and remains, my ongoing experience.

This is good news, and provides an incentive to pray. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put you back together again, but God can. As you pray God will put the pieces of your life and life in the kingdom back together again. (As some have said, to pray is to change.)


***

My Two Books 


Image result for john piippo books

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart (summer 2021)



Image result for john piippo books

Saturday, December 26, 2020

REMEMBER

(I wrote these reminders to myself many years ago. I put them on an email, and sent the email to myself, periodically. I called it "REMEMBER." Because I can forget. I'm posting this, mostly for myself.)

Be myself. Be who God made me to be, with all mstrengths and infirmities.    

Overcome fear & intimidation.

Overcome denial.

Overcome addiction

Do not compare...

Stimulate the mind with intellectually challenging reading.
 
Physically exercise

Get outside and ponder God's creation

Listen to excellent music

Write beautiful worship songs

Remember blessings

Enjoy Linda, Dan, Josh 

God works all things together for good!

Live in gratitude

Remember - you're not alone

Eat well

Pray about struggles

Enter deeply into God's presence

Know the Father's love

Play the guitar

Lead worship with passion

Preach with passion and excellence

Teach brilliantly

Laugh

Don't lose your joy

Lead with confidence

Mentor with great discernment...

Counsel others

Write the books

Take beautiful photographs

Love others deeply

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Shamed People Shame People

(Monroe County)

The best book I have ever read on combating shame is Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don't Deserve, by Lewis Smedes.

Another good resource is The Soul of Shame, by psychiatrist Curt Thompson.

I read books like these for two reasons: 1) my own growth and healing; and 2) to help others.

Shame is universal. It was in my family of upbringing. My grandmother lived with us six months out of the year when I was a boy. I can hear her voice now, when she was displeased with me, saying "Shame on you, Johnny." (I also remember looking forward to her being with us!)

Shame... on... you. Let's pile shame on you, by the bucket load! I doubt my grandmother knew what she was doing. I'm certain my father lived with it being heaped on him.

Shame is an emotion. Shame expresses itself in thoughts,  like I am not enough; There is something uniquely wrong with me. Or, I don't matter.

Shame "is born out of a sense of “there being something wrong” with me or of “not being enough,” and therefore exudes the aroma of being unable or powerless to change one’s condition or circumstances." (Thompson, Kindle Locations 277-279)

Shame has to do with a "lessening" of our worth and capacity. This lessening is deeper than a conclusion one logically arrives at. It is an emotion, a feeling, that one cannot be reasoned out of. Shame's essence precedes language; it seems to be woven into a person's DNA.

"One of the hallmarks of shame is judgment." (Kindle Location 331) Judgment refers to "the spirit of condemnation or condescension with which we analyze or critique something, whether ourselves or someone or something else. I may say to myself, I should have done better at that assignment. What is crucial is the emotional tone that undergirds those words." (Kindle Locations 335-337)

The act of being judgmental towards other people is rooted in self-judgment. Chapman writes:

"As I often tell patients, “Shamed people shame people.” Long before we are criticizing others, the source of that criticism has been planted, fertilized and grown in our own lives, directed at ourselves, and often in ways we are mostly unaware of. Suffice to say that our self-judgment, that tendency to tell ourselves that we are not enough—not thin enough, not smart enough, not funny enough, not . . . enough—is the nidus out of which grows our judgment of others, not least being our judgment of God. The problem is that we have constructed a sophisticated lattice of blindness around this behavior, which disallows our awareness of it." (Kindle Locations 348-352)

***
For resources on overcoming shame, go HERE

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Reason You Are Wounded by Rejection

(Detroit skyline)

(I write this as much for myself as for anyone else.)

We all need affirmation, as well as realistic evaluation. But there is a disease called affirmation addiction, and it is punishing to the soul. The affirmation addict goes up and down with the approval and disapproval of people.

Are you disturbed when someone dismisses you, or assaults you, on social media? When you get a "thumbs down?" 

I've been upset when someone attacks me. If I did not live for the approval of other people, I would not die by their disapproval of me. I have to choose whose acceptance I will live and die for. (I am writing this as much for myself as for anyone else.)

Bob Sorge says, "Jesus was not touched by the praise of man, so he was not wounded by the rejection of man." (See here.) Sorge is commenting on John 5:44, where Jesus faces his followers and says,  How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

Thomas Merton once wrote that, when people praised him, he tried to receive this as a clean window receives the light of the sun. The more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass. However, some people receive praise the way a dog gobbles a chunk of food. I feel good when someone affirms me. But I am not to exist for the approval of others. 

Jesus refused to receive the approval of humanity. He didn't rise and fall by what other people thought of him. Instead, he lived and died by the Father's approval, and thus was free to live and die for you and me.

The less you care about what others think of you, the more you are free to care for others.

***
My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.


I'm now working on...

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart (Goal - summer 2021)

And, when all this settles, Linda and I intend on writing our book on Relationships.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

CUSTOM MADE WOOD FURNITURE, by My Friend Leo Kay

 

My friend Leo Kay is a professional woodworker. He and his wife Maria are Elders in our church.

Leo does beautiful work, and is a joy to work with.

Here is Leo's information.












John Maxwell - 10 Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Temptation

(Weaverville, California)

One of the most impactful sermons I have ever experienced was at the first PromiseKeepers event I went to, in Indianapolis. The speaker was John Maxwell. He preached on "10 Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Temptation." After Maxwell gave Guideline #1 the place was electric. I felt, at that moment, that 20,000 men were ready to walk in total sexual purity.



*****
John Maxwell’s 10 Guidelines (For Men) For Dealing With Sexual Temptation

1. RUN!


“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)


"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body." (1 Corinthians 6:18)


2. ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY


"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)


Every time we choose righteousness, we not only become closer to God, but stronger in our ability to resist temptation.


3. BE ACCOUNTABLE - John Maxwell's list of accountability questions:


Are you spending time alone with God?


Are you in studying the Bible?


Are you praying?


Is your thought life pure?


Have you seen something you shouldn't see (movies, magazines, Internet)?


Are you misusing your power on the job? At home?


Are you walking in total obedience to God? (Remember, partial obedience is disobedience.)


Have you lied about any of the previous questions?


4.LISTEN TO YOUR WIFE


5. BE ON GUARD


Seldom travel alone.


When you have to travel, call your wife every night.


Talk positively about your wife to others.


Choose friends wisely. "Bad company corrupts good character." ( Corinthians 15:33)


6. DETERMINE TO LIVE A PURE LIFE TODAY


"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)


"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)


7. REALIZE THAT SEXUAL SIN ASSAULTS THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST IN YOUR LIFE


"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" (1 Corinthians 6:15)


8. RECOGNIZE THE CONSEQUENCES OF SEXUAL SIN


"But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself." (Proverbs 6:32)


"For the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life." (Proverbs 6:26)


9. THINK OF YOUR CHILDREN


10. GET A NEW DEFINITION OF SUCCESS


Maxwell's definition is: Success is having those who are the closest to me love and respect me the most.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

An Appeal for Purity


Image result for john piippo purity
(From Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry)

(I am re-posting this for someone who asked. Someone told them that God affirms premarital sex. I think not.)

Before I was a follower of Jesus one of the things I wanted to do was have sex with girls. The truth is, I didn't have as much sex as some of my fraternity brothers did. Some of them were doing it left and right, and I only could look on with envy. My understanding was that this was normal. In a Godless universe as I understood it, who really cares?

When I entered the Kingdom of God things were different. In my new life I was told that genital intercourse was reserved for marriage. This radically different viewpoint made sense to me, and still does. 

I do not expect this to make sense to someone who is not a God-believer, or not a Jesus-follower. If that's you, I think I understand. You are as I once was. Like, what's the big deal about premarital and extramarital intercourse? Of course it's no big deal, if there is no God.

In my fraternity one of the brothers had a little black book. The black book contained the names of girls on campus. It had numerical ratings from '1' to '10' next to their names. A '1' meant there is no way she would have sex with you on the first date. A '10' meant she would definitely have sex with you on the first date. My fraternity brother charged ten dollars to look at the black book, which was constantly being updated. Many of us, including me, thought this was so cool, because we wanted to have sex, almost more than anything. Girls were for our pleasure. If there is no Divine Moral Command-Giver, there's nothing wrong with that.

The Kingdom of God is different from this. God's Kingdom is upside-down compared to this. Kingdom thinking operates in the light, not the twilight.

I'm writing to any of you who say you love and worship God and Jesus and The Kingdom. If you are screwing around, why? In God's Kingdom this is unloving and unrighteousness. In their book Real Relationships Les and Leslie Parrott write:

"Having genital sex before marriage is clearly not in line with God’s principles. Sexual intercourse is a “life-uniting act,” as our friend Lewis Smedes calls it. That’s why sex outside of marriage is “sex-to-soon.” It violates the intended purpose of sex. “It is wrong,” according to Smedes, “because unmarried people thereby engage in a life-uniting act without a life-uniting intent…. Intercourse signs and seals—and maybe even delivers—a life-union; and life union means marriage."
Parrott, Les. Real Relationships: From Bad to Better and Good to Great (Kindle Locations 1966-1969). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 

In God's Kingdom, do not mess with this. It is the road to relational failure (see Parrott's book for the supportive scholarship). 

I know others are doing it, but why care about what others think and do? Why are you using "what others think" as a premise to support an immoral conclusion? That kind of thinking is what created the mess you and I were once in. Choose your kingdom and embrace it.

Our sex-worshiping culture reveals that something has gone wrong. C. S. Lewis once wrote:

“You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?”

Look - sex was God's idea, not the enemy's. The destroyer of our soul works by taking things God made and then OCD-perverting them so that our love for the distortion destroys us from the inside. Surely the One who invented sexuality knows best how it is to be enjoyed, right? 

If you are a Jesus-lover but have blown it in this area, come back. You know about the cross. You know about forgiveness.  You know that repentance means doing a '180' and changing directions. Step up and be the prodigal son. Do it now.

Stop rationalizing your failure. Rationalization belongs to the kingdom of darkness. Rationalization muddies things. What once was clear to you has become cloudy. Just how many translations of 1 Corinthians 6:18 do you need? Our loving God, thankfully, pursues after us and then, counter-culturally, throws a party in heaven when we come home.

Flee from sexual immorality. (NIV)

There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. (The Message)

Run from immoral behavior(The Voice)